Monday, January 7, 2013

What to do about the flu

Coughs, sneezes, headaches, sore throats, tummy aches…flu-like symptoms have been hitting families full force. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, high levels of flu-like symptoms are affecting most of the country right now.

Dr. Odilon Alvarado, internal medicine physician on the medical staff at Texas Health Harris Methodist Hospital Fort Worth, has seen a higher than usual amount of flu patients at his office recently.

“I haven’t seen this much flu in five years, at least,” Dr. Alvarado said.

Children will usually contract it and transmit it to their parents, he said.

According to Dr. Alvarado, the best ways to prevent the flu include:
•    Get a flu shot. It’s not too late if you haven’t gotten one yet.
•    Avoid contact with people who are coughing and avoid crowds if possible.
•    Wash hands frequently and thoroughly, don’t just sanitize.
•    If your child gets sick and you have not had a flu shot, call your doctor. If you take Tamiflu within 48 hours of exposure you can reduce your chance of getting the flu.

If you or your family member has the flu:
•    Stay home. Don’t go to school or to work.
•    Give it time and rest. Treat symptoms with cough medicine, decongestant medicine, and Advil or Tylenol.
•    Infants, the elderly, and those with underlying conditions such as asthma, heart failure or diabetes should be taken to the emergency room. Others should stay home, rest, and treat symptoms.

A good reminder: most healthy adults may infect others beginning 1 day before symptoms develop and up to 5-7 days after becoming sick. Young children and people with weakened immune systems may infect others for an even longer time.

 “The flu would be easier to prevent if everybody got the flu shot,” Dr. Alvarado said. “Everybody should get the flu shot every year.”

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